Complexity Explorer Santa Fe Institute



1 What is Complexity Explorer?

Complexity Explorer is a web-based platform for courses and other educational resources related to complex systems science. The website is sponsored by the Santa Fe Institute.

2 Who is this website intended for?

The website is for anyone who is interested in learning about, or teaching about, complex systems. The interdisciplinary educational materials and courses offered through this website will range from beginner to expert levels, and will provide curricula for instructors to use, ranging from high school through graduate school levels.



3 What resources are available through Complexity Explorer?

Complexity Explorer hosts the Santa Fe Institute’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) program, a collection of online courses and tutorials open to anyone. The site also hosts searchable databases of syllabi, glossary terms, and other resources related to complex systems topics.  The site also hosts a Virtual Laboratory consisting of open-source simulation programs illustrating complex systems ideas, theories, and tools, accompanied by curricula designed for both teachers and independent learners who want to take advantage of these simulations.

4 In what ways am I allowed to use these resources?

All the materials on this site are available for your use for any non-commercial purpose. All materials (videos, code, write-ups, etc.) are covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License ( ). This states that you may copy, distribute, and transmit the work under the condition that you give attribution to, and your use is for non-commercial purposes.

5 Is there any cost?

All materials on this website are freely available to anyone. However, certain course sessions may only be accessible for a tuition fee.  Once the session is closed, the materials (videos and quizzes) will be free.



6 Do I need to register?

You will be able to access most of the materials without registering for an account. You will need to register for an account in order to enroll in online courses, to participate in forums on the site, and to receive email updates about the site and about online courses offered through the site. Registration is easy and free!



7 How is this project funded?

Funding for the development and maintenance of Complexity Explorer, as well as for the online courses, comes from the John Templeton Foundation, through a grant to the Santa Fe Institute.  This grant ends December 31st, 2017. Additional funding comes from user contributions.



8 Who is putting all these resources online?

The Santa Fe Institute is sponsoring the Complexity Explorer website. You can see who is responsible for creating content for the site at

9 What is the Santa Fe Institute?

The Santa Fe Institute is a private, not-for-profit, independent research and education center, founded in 1984, devoted to the interdisciplinary study of complex systems.



10 How can I contribute to this project?

There are several ways to contribute:  by submitting content to be included on the site, by helping to subtitle our videos in your native langauge, by giving us your feedback, and by making a donation to help support this project.  For detailed information, go to our Get Involved page. 



11 How do I take a course on Complexity Explorer?

Watch the short instructional video "How to use Complexity Explorer" and read course FAQs.  If you still have questions, you can email and we will help you.

12 What is the difference between a course and a tutorial?

Complexity Explorer courses are designed to be similar to a semester-long course, offering the chance to delve into a subject deeply.  Courses are available in two ways: as a course session, or an archived course.  Each course is usually offered in one session per calendar year.  

During a session, the course instructor and sometimes a teaching assistant are onhand to answer questions through email or the course forum.  A course forum is available for students to interact with each other.  During a session, a student can complete graded tests and in some cases peer-reviewed assignments.  When a student completes all tests and assignments within the course session time with an average score of 70% or higher, they can earn a certificate.  

Archived courses are the video and quiz materials that make up a course session, and they are freely available.  No certificate is offered for completing an archived course, and there is no course forum or instructor help.  

Complexity Explorer tutorials are short “mini-courses” designed to introduce students to important techniques and to provide illustrations of their application in complex systems.  A given tutorial is not meant to offer complete coverage of its topic or substitute for an entire course on that topic.   

Tutorials differ from our courses in a several ways:

  • They are always available; there is no set time to complete them.
  • They have quizzes and homework, but no tests.  Tutorials do not offer a grade or a certificate. 
  • The discussion forums for tutorials are provided for student discussion but are not monitored by instructors or TAs.  If you find an error or encounter a technical problem, please email us at

13 How do I know which courses are free and which are paid?

Courses with a padlock on the icon are paid courses.  If there is no padlock visible on the icon then the course is free.  Paid courses require a minimum tuition payment to progress past the first unit.  Once the course session is complete, the course materials will be free to use under the Archived Courses section.  



14 What if I still have questions?

Please send any questions about this site to